Two Democrats on the Federal Election Commission are criticizing Republican members after the commission deadlocked and did not take action against former President Donald Trump’s campaign related to the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election.
“Because of Trump’s apparent role in orchestrating the transaction, we supported (the commission’s Office of the General Counsel) recommendations to find reason to believe that he and the Committee accepted, and the Committee did not report, illegal contributions,” Commission Chair Shana Broussard and Commissioner Ellen Weintraub wrote in a statement.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 for arranging a nondisclosure agreement for which he paid Daniels $130,000, a campaign contribution violation during the 2016 election cycle, since the payment was made in service of the campaign and exceeded the federal limit.
Prosecutors previously said that in executing the payments, Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, who has denied having affairs with two women. Cohen also pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a bank.
Later that year, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging payments during the 2016 election to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump after Cohen attributed his offenses to “my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
“Several of our colleagues instead voted to dismiss the allegations,” Broussard and Weintraub added in their statement. “The Commission therefore did not have enough votes to pursue well-grounded charges that the former President of the United States knowingly and willfully accepted contributions nearly 5,000% over the legal limit to suppress a negative story mere days before Election Day.”
The six-member commission’s vote – which was taken last month, but the results of which were first made public Thursday – was 2-2. Broussard and Weintraub voted yes, Independent Steven Walther did not vote, and Republican Allen Dickerson recused himself.
Republicans James “Trey” Trainor and Sean Cooksey voted no, arguing that the federal government had already punished Cohen and the agency has other issues to pursue.
“In sum, the public record is complete with respect to the conduct at issue in these complaints, and Mr. Cohen has been punished by the government of the United States for the conduct at issue in these matters,” Trainor and Cooksey said in a statement.
“Thus, we concluded that pursuing these matters further was not the best use of agency resources,” they continued. “The Commission regularly dismisses matters where other government agencies have already adequately enforced and vindicated the Commission’s interests.”
In a statement Friday morning, Trump praised the vote to end what he called the “phony case against me” and criticized Cohen.
“I thank the Commission for their decision, ending this chapter of Fake News,” he said.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, says she and Trump had an affair in 2006, after he married Melania Trump and she gave birth to their son, Barron. Trump has denied the affair.
CNN’s Erica Orden and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.